Halal: more than skin deep

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Being a huge fan of everything natural I was ecstatic to find someone with similar interests selling soaps at the Eid festival. Her story simply needed to be shared, so I interviewed her. The shortened version of the interview appeared in Sisters Magazine in August 2017, but here is the gist of our conversation, which I hope you will find inspiring.

When Caileigh converted to Islam she decided she wanted to provide a halal home to  her loved ones: from the food they eat, to the soaps they use on their bodies, to the intentions behind everything they do. From this grew a passion for making soap and other body products for her extended family and friends, who, in turn, encouraged her to expand her clientele and start a business. In the summer of 2015, Al Zaytoon Soap Shop (now Zaytoon Naturals) was founded in her two bedroom apartment.

Her family was always into natural products, organic food, and her sister is married to an organic farmer, so she learned a lot from this lifestyle. But it was after becoming Muslim that she realized that her body and her family were a trust (amana) from Allah. She wanted to use her time, knowledge and expertise to make her family’s life the healthiest she could, which meant clearing the path from harmful chemicals, unethical dealings, and unhealthy habits. All materials she uses are pure, natural, alcohol and pork free, using halal slaughtered animal tallow, as well as being ecologically and ethically sound from source to final product.

Having said this, even simply by eliminating the middle man, she found that she had more control over ingredients and processes, and this, in turn, made everything more meaningful to her and to her family. Finding a way to provide everything she could from natural, organic, halal sources, and combining them in a way that suited her and her family’s needs wasn’t just good sense (scents and cents), it gave more meaning to everything she did!

She has had to adapt to people’s tastes and inclinations. She came up with a base recipe and her own ideas about scent and color: some simple, like lavender and peppermint, but also new ones (such as Patchouli Spearmint and Lavender Vanilla Mint). She found that the services and products available in her area were quite uniform, and she wanted to make something that would stand out.

Similarly, she wanted something that didn’t just address a need, but it had to be affordable, to be able to provide enough for entire families and their friends. Other products are marketed as handmade, but they often use a lot of synthetic materials. It’s a booming industry right now (the natural, handmade cosmetics) because people are becoming more aware of the harmful ingredients that they are putting into the environment, but this doesn’t mean it should be expensive. There has to be a balance, between quality/purity and price, and it’s a fine line.

Yes, I am talking about providing a service/product that is in high demand, and not asking an exorbitant amount for it. If you consider it to be a necessity, not a mere luxury, it should be priced as such. But there are many costs involved, and that’s where it gets tricky. For example, she has always wanted to make Aleppo soap, but they use laurel berry oil, which you can’t get easily and it’s 100$ for one liter. She was using the organic, fair trade Palestinian olive oil, but it’s really hard to get and expensive, but it’s a soft oil, so it wears out faster. In the end, if you’re taking the time to make it and using it with confidence on your own family, then you should not skimp on quality. Part of this comes from wanting to get away from things that are mass produced, not just because of the products they use and the corners they cut to reduce costs and increase profits (at the expense of quality, health and the environment), but also from a political standpoint, many multinationals financially support causes that she disagrees with.

Thinking about these things makes people more conscious about how they care for their soaps, and don’t let them melt away in the bath water. If people knew what goes into their soaps and all the chemical hardening agents that make them as hard as they are, they probably wouldn’t bother with them as much. Handmade soaps don’t last as long, because they don’t have these chemicals, but they are good for you in so many other ways, you just need to take good care of them.

All in all the biggest challenge is finding the time to take care of all the details: you want the business to be good and do well, you want the customers to be satisfied and find what they’re looking for, but you also want to maintain a healthy balance with family and your own overall health. For now, working primarily from home, and with the etsy site it works out, but it’s a constant struggle because you want to have the right intention and you don’t want it to override the initial raison d’etre.

When it comes to this kind of business, there are a lot of companies making this kind of thing, but the Muslim community isn’t being addressed as much. People are becoming more interested in organic, natural products, but we don’t have it as much among Muslims, and it’s a pity. We all want to be good role models for our families, and part of this is to provide a needed service that is halal in every possible way. Education is another aspect of the business as well; learning and teaching about the products we use, about our responsibilities for safekeeping the earth and leaving it better than how we have received it. It’s a matter of conscience.

Zaytoon Naturals can be found online on Instagram, Facebook, Etsy and has its own website.

Check her out, you are still in time to take advantage of her 25% sale before Eid, on all orders using the code EID25.


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